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2/17 KUMD Album Reviews:<em> Medieval Chamber</em>

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Black Knights are a California hip-hop duo consisting of rappers and Wu-Tang Clan affiliates Rugged Monk and Crisis tha Sharpshooter. Their most recent album, Medieval Chamber, was produced by former Red Hot Chili Peppers guitarist John Frusciante, who crafts a soundscape of simple synth rhythms combined with live percussion in addition to some oddball samples straight out of '60s TV shows. The result makes for, musically, a gritty yet fun-to-listen-to album. By Quentin Stille

As for the raps, Monk and Sharpshooter excel across Frusciante's beats, spitting bars in a somewhat high-pitched, aggressive cadence - not unlike Wu Tang's Ghostface Killah- over songs reflecting common hip-hop tropes: violence ("the Joust"), sex ("Keys to the Chastity Belt"), and power/status ("Knighthood"). However, as you can gather from some of the listed song titles, they give their songs the medieval treatment, something that works both to their benefit and occasional detriment. Regarding the latter, where Wu Tang Clan albums are chock full of kung-fu references and movie samples, Medieval Chamber is often and noticeably dry of any dark ages mention beyond, say, that of the song title. Therefore, in songs like "Trickfingers Playhouse" or "D?j? vu," it's hard to see how they relate to the overall theme. On the other hand, while the lyrics from Monk and Sharpshooter often fall under the aforementioned common hip-hop tropes, when the song title is overtly medieval the Black Knights trust that audience will get the metaphor they're going for, thus making their bars mean more. Take for example the Funkadelic-sampling "Sword in the Stone," where the lyrics from Black Knights are primarily filled with classic rap braggadocio; Crisis takes some time to reflect with the line "lead 'em in the right direction/Learn to live, you live to learn, you learn that life's a lesson," effectively engaging the theme of the actual story of the Sword in the Stone- adolescence and the power within.

Another great track that addresses the main theme head on is the three-part opener "Drawbridge," where, after a blistering 45 seconds of mechanical cacophony over orchestral strings and angelic vocals, the beat switches on a dime to ominous synths, with Crisis and Monk trading bars over them. Essentially, the opening 45 was the lowering of the drawbridge, and now the Black Knights are crossing it, making for a solid introductory track all in all.

In summation, this is a good hip-hop album. Is it a classic hip-hop album? Probably not, although only time will tell. Till then, we can probably expect more music from the Black Knights, hopefully with Frusciante producing.

RIYL: Wu Tang, Specifically Ghostface Killah or Raekwon, C Ray Walz, John Frusciante
Recommended tracks: Drawbridge, Sword in the Stone, Knighthood, The Joust